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St. Thomas Aquinas
Catechetical Instructions

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  • THE SECOND ARTICLE: "And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord."
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There were, however, certain heretics who erred in this belief. Photinus,

for instance, believed that Christ is not the Son of God but a good man

who, by a good life and by doing the will of God, merited to be called the

son of God by adoption; and so Christ who lived a good life and did the

will of God merited to be called the son of God. Moreover, this error would

not have Christ living before the Blessed Virgin, but would have Him begin

to exist only at His conception. Accordingly, there are here two errors:

the first, that Christ is not the true Son of God according to His nature;

and the second, that Christ in His entire being began to exist in time. Our

faith, however, holds that He is the Son of God in His nature, and that he

is from all eternity. Now, we have definite authority against these errors

in the Holy Scriptures, Against the first error it is said that Christ is

not only the Son, but also the only-begotten Son of the Father: "The only

begotten Son who is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him:"3 And

again the second error it is said: "Before Abraham was made, I AM."4 It is

evident that Abraham lived before the Blessed Virgin. And what the Fathers

added to the other Creed [i.e., the Nicene Creed], namely, "the only-

begotten Son of God," is against the first error; and "born of the Father

before all ages" is against the second error.


Sabellius said that Christ indeed was before the Blessed Virgin, but he

held that the Father Himself became incarnate and, therefore, the Father

and the Son is the same Person. This is an error because it takes away the

Trinity of Persons in God, and against it is this authority: "I am not

alone, but I and the Father that sent Me."5 It is clear that one cannot be

sent from himself. Sabellius errs therefore, and in the "Symbol"6 Of the

Fathers it is said: "God of God; Light of Light," that is, we are to

believe in God the Son from God the Father, and the Son who is Light from

the Father who is Light.


Arius, although he would say that Christ was before the Blessed Virgin and

that the Person of the Father is other than the Person of the Son,

nevertheless made a three-fold attribution to Christ: (1) that the Son of

God was a creature; (2) that He is not from eternity, but was formed the

noblest of all creatures in time by God; (3) that God the Son is not of one

nature with God the Father, and therefore that He was not true God. But

this too is erroneous and contrary to the teaching of the Holy Scriptures.

It is written: "I and the Father are one."7 That is, in nature; and

therefore, just as the Father always existed, so also the Son; and just as

the Father is true God, so also is the Son. That Christ is a creature, as

said by Arius, is contradicted in the "Symbol" by the Fathers: "True God of

true God;" and the assertion that Christ is not from eternity but in time

is also contrary to the "Symbol": "Begotten not made;" and finally, that

Christ is not of the same substance as the Father is denied by the

"Symbol": "Consubstantial with the Father."


It is, therefore, clear we must believe that Christ is the Only-begotten of

God, and the true Son of God, who always was with the Father, and that

there is one Person of the Son and another of the Father who have the same

divine nature.8 All this we believe now through faith, but we shall know it

with a perfect vision in the life eternal. Hence, we shall now speak

somewhat of this for our own edification.


3. John, i. 18.


4. John, viii. 58.


5. John, viii. 16.


6. "Symbol" (from the Greek "Symbolon," and the late Latin "Symbolum") is a

formal authoritative statement ot the religious belief of the Church,

referring here to the Nicene Creed. This treatise of St. Thomas is indeed

called by him an "Explanation of the Symbol of the Apostles," or the

Apostles Creed.


7. John x. 30.


8 ". . . we beiieve Him [Christ] to be one son, because His divine and human

natures meet in one Person. As to His divine generation, He has no brethren

or coheirs. being the Only-begotten Son of the Father, and we men are the

image and work of His hands" ("Roman Catechism, "loc. cit.," 9-10).


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